Sydney hold on for morale-boosting win

By Stephen Webb:

A-League Season 2013-14
Round 19

Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Saturday, 15 February, 5.30 pm

Sydney FC 2 (Ranko Despotovic 17’, Terry Antonis 65’)
Perth Glory FC 1 (Rostyn Griffiths 67’)

It is strange to think that before this game Sydney’s season was said to be on the line and now, after beating Perth Glory, they are within striking distance of third spot on the ladder.

Sydney were by no means convincing but the three points must go a long way towards silencing naysayers.

Active supporters in the Cove, who walked out the previous week, calling for the sacking of Sydney’s coach and club officers, this week raised a banner seeking action, not words.

The action came from the players on the pitch, where key changes were the first appearance of central defender Sasa Ognenovski and the long awaited return of Terry Antonis, coming back from injury and recovery in the youth league to fill the defensive midfield spot vacated by the injured Terry McFlynn and in-the-doghouse Nick Carle.

The first ten minutes were a stalemate, with nary a shot. But that was followed by a good spell for Sydney. In the 13th minute Ranko Despotovic, on the edge of the Perth goal box, put the ball over the top of the goal following a cross from the left.

Alessandro Del Piero then set up Milos Dimitrijevic on the edge of the penalty area but Dimitrijevic’s shot was slowed down by Michael Thwaite.

A long cross from the left by Matt Jurman was just beyond Despotovic.

Sydney were playing all right, according to a guy behind me. All that was missing was a goal.

And then it came. Del Piero played the ball through the D to Despotovic, who got enough of his toe on it to score inside the right post.

Matt Jurman, making the most of a run at left back, sent a good ball down the line for Ali Abbas, who put it in for Del Piero. But the star wobbled with his first touch and sprayed his shot high to the right of goal.

After some good play by Antonis the ball eventually fell to Dimitrijevic, who hit a fair shot high.

Calamity came to the Sydney penalty area after a Perth corner from the left. Vedran Janjetovic punched the ball onto his own crossbar and Perth were awarded an indirect free kick thanks to a high foot from Ognenovski. The kick was taken from the edge of the goal box with Sydney players blocking the goal. The shot rebounded to William Gallas, who was denied by Del Piero.

Then Perth enjoyed a long period mostly in Sydney’s half. Hence the guy behind me claiming Sydney were falling apart. “Get it together, guys!”

Sidnei Sciola Moraes became the most serious threat. Once, after Sidnei ran into the left of the Sydney penalty area and won a corner from his deflected shot, Antonis broke clear until he was pulled down by Thwaite, who dropped his shorts and was cautioned.

Dimitrijevic went down injured and replaced by Hagi Gligor.

Again Sidnei found success from the left, beating two players and crossing to Darvydas Sernas, who spooned his shot high.

A Perth free kick from the left, 40 metres out, bounced in the box and off Janjetovic’s shins. Perth won a corner, which was cleared off the line by Del Piero.

Del Piero then found Despotovic, who set up Corey Gameiro for a good low shot that needed a good save from Daniel Vukovic. Gameiro had a look at the rebound but hoofed his effort into the stands.

Del Piero then gave Gameiro another opportunity. The young striker was halted on the edge of the Perth penalty area and gave the ball away looking for support.

Del Piero created a chance for himself, evading three defenders, but was not able to keep his shot down.

The second half began with Perth nearly profiting from bumbling in Sydney’s defence and Gligor getting close to putting Gameiro through.

Ognenovksi made one of several dramatic headed clearances (sometimes challenging his teammates), Steven McGarry lifted a shot over the Sydney goal, and Sydney were too slow coming forward to support a break down the right.

Chris Harold was unlucky not to score with his first touch after coming on as a substitute; but his shot was tipped past the left post by Janjetovic.

A Nebojsa Marinkovic shot was blocked by Ognenovski, Gallas won a duel with Abbas, and Sydney scored their second goal against the run of play. Gameiro was excellent holding the ball in the right corner until support arrived. Antonis picked up the ball wide and took it to the top of the Perth penalty area, where he was allowed to cut in and curl a brilliant shot inside the left post.

Sydney broke again through Del Piero, who switched off and lost the ball.

A free kick put Perth back in the game. Rostyn Griffiths was strong in the air, heading up and under the crossbar.

With 20 minutes to go Sydney looked beaten.

Yet Antonis, supplied by Del Piero, blasted high from outside the box. Abbas down the left got the better of Gallas and Sydney had some chances denied by Perth bodies.

It looked hard for Sydney. Ognenovski was magnificent in defence but Jacob Burns still managed to whip a long range effort over the crossbar.

A few people started to leave before the final whistle. “We can still win, you know.”

The pressure on Sydney increased when Aaron Calver was marched for his second yellow card.

But the last good chance came Sydney’s way, again thanks to Del Piero. The maestro battled his way to the left post, had a shot blocked and tried to set up team mates. There was no way through.

Sydney held on. Made it back into the top six. And Perth didn’t.

Match stats:

Crowd: 11, 160

Sydney FC:
20. Vedran Janjetovic (gk), 4. Ranko Despotovic (14. Mitch Mallia 87’), 5. Matt Jurman, 6. Nikola Petkovic, 9. Corey Gameiro (29. Alec Urosevski 74’), 10. Alessandro Del Piero (C), 13. Sasa Ognenovski, 17. Terry Antonis, 21. Milos Dimitrijevic (24. Hagi Gligor 37’), 22. Ali Abbas, 34 Aaron Calver.
Subs not used: 1 Ivan Necevski (gk), 36. Themba Muata-Marlow.
Yellow card: Aaron Calver 51’
Red card: Aaron Calver 89’

Perth Glory:
1. Daniel Vukovic (gk), 5. Rostyn Griffiths (7. Jacob Burns 68’), 8. Nebojsa Marinkovic, 9. Shane Smeltz, 14. Steven McGarry, 16. Sidnei Sciola Moraes, 19. Joshua Risdon (10. Jamie McLaren 92’), 23. Michael Thwaite, 25. Riley Woodcock, 28. Darvydas Sernas (17. Chris Harold 60’), 36. William Gallas.

Referee: Chris Beath 8/10

Pitch: (wet) 6/10

Game: 7/10

Best players:

2. Sasa Ognenovski (Sydney)
2. Alessandro Del Piero (Sydney)
1. Terry Antonis (Sydney)
1. Michael Thwaite (Perth)

By Stephen Webb

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